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Webster Suspended and Fined $5,000

TIMES STAFF WRITER

King Coach Tom Webster has been suspended by the NHL for four games and fined $5,000 for exchanging punches with the Calgary Flames’ Doug Gilmour in Saturday’s game at the Forum.

Gilmour was suspended for two games and fined $500. Teammates Tim Hunter (two-game suspension) and Joel Otto ($500) were also punished for their part in what turned into a brawl between the teams.

The Kings maintain that tapes show that Hunter and Otto subsequently hit Webster.

The Kings have declined their right of appeal, meaning Webster’s suspension begins immediately. In addition to missing Thursday’s game, he will be out of Sunday’s regular-season finale and the first two games of the playoffs.

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In making the announcement Thursday, NHL Executive Vice President Brian O’Neill said: “In reviewing the incident, it should be pointed out that a coach has special responsibilities and must set an example for his players. It is also clear that (the Flame players involved) acted in a highly irresponsible manner.”

With Gilmour on the ice and Webster in the bench area Saturday, the two exchanged words, each later claiming the other made personal insults. Gilmour threw the first punch and Webster responded.

“I’m quite surprised at the severity of it all,” Webster said after learning of the suspension. “I told them (league officials in a hearing held Wednesday in Toronto) that, in hindsight, I’m sorry that it happened. I reacted to a situation of being hit first.”

Webster was ejected from Saturday’s game, the third time this season he has been thrown out. In the earlier incidents, he was ejected once for remarks to a referee and once for throwing a stick in anger. Would the latest situation force him to temper his actions on the bench?

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“It will not change the way I coach,” he said, “but maybe in the way I react.”

Webster gave his wife, Carole, credit for putting it all in perspective, reminding him of the crisis a year ago when an ear problem threatened his coaching career.

“She told me,” Webster said, “that a year ago, I was sick and didn’t know if I’d be able to coach. Now, I’ve only got (to sit out) four games and I’m still a coach.

“Very wise. I’m still doing something I love to do.”

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